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Ravens Tackle Lobbies The NFL To Approve Medical Marijuana

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In any given game, pro football players can get hit dozens of times. The toll it can take is all too familiar to Eugene Monroe. He's played professional football for seven years as an offensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars and now the Baltimore Ravens.

EUGENE MONROE: My first major injury was in college, my first year, reconstructive knee surgery. Two years later, I had a shoulder reconstruction. After my first year in the NFL, I had another knee surgery. And just this past season, my season was cut short with another shoulder injury, which I had surgery for this past December. So I've had quite a few injuries.

KELLY: To treat his pain for all those injuries, Monroe has taken NFL-approved painkillers - opioids. He has now launched a campaign urging the NFL to lift its ban on another option, marijuana.

MONROE: I've taken Vicodin. I've taken oxycodone. And those pills, they changed who I was during the time that I took them. I was loopy and out of it and not feeling like myself. It slowed my metabolism and my digestive system to a halt.

KELLY: There's also, of course, the question of possible addiction to opioids on top of the side effects that you're describing. So you have arrived at the conclusion that maybe one option should be medical marijuana. Why?

MONROE: Medical marijuana is a safer drug than the opioids that players are currently being prescribed. Our country is overwhelmingly supporting legislation that changes our current laws and allows for medical marijuana programs to be established. If the NFL removes marijuana from its banned substance list, then players will have the option to choose medical marijuana over any prescription opioids.

KELLY: I'm sure you've pitched this idea to your coaches and your teammates. What do they say?

MONROE: My teammates are extremely supportive. We want a healthier option. We don't want to be like some of our former colleagues who have gone on and exposed their great deal of strife that has come into their life because of addiction to these opioids. That addiction - that doesn't stop when the game is over for them. It transfers into their life when they retire from the game as well.

KELLY: Now, the NFL commissioner says that there isn't enough evidence to warrant a change in league rules. What do you say to that?

MONROE: I don't agree with the NFL commissioner's opinion on there not being enough data or research to change the rules. There is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence and research that is building to show that cannabis is far safer than the opioids and anti-inflammatories that the doctors are currently prescribing. And we need to take a serious look at that.

KELLY: Eugene Monroe is an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Great to talk with you.

MONROE: Thank you, awesome talking to you, too. And thanks for having me.

KELLY: Good luck with the off-season.

MONROE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.